The Austin Chronicle

It's Complicated

Rated R, 118 min. Directed by Nancy Meyers. Starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, John Krasinski, Lake Bell, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Zoe Kazan, Hunter Parrish.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Dec. 25, 2009

The thing about It’s Complicated is that it’s not … complicated. Writer-director Meyers has come to specialize in making wish-fulfillment fantasies for middle-aged women (The Parent Trap, What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give, The Holiday) in which smart, professional, single, Caucasian women of a certain age have wonderful careers, picture-perfect homes, and love affairs aplenty. Their affluent careers seem to require no work on their part, their interior decor inspires the same acquisitive lust as the commercial photo spreads in a design catalog or upscale lifestyle magazine, and the men interested in them are ubiquitous and ardent: None of these premises is called into question in Meyers’ otherwise realistically based films. “Having it all” is always a viable option in Meyers’ worlds. In It’s Complicated, Streep plays Jane Adler, a Santa Barbara, Calif., restaurateur who is 10 years divorced from Jake (Baldwin), following a marriage of 19 years. (To be fair, Jake, a lawyer with a second family and much younger wife, is never seen at work either.) At the college graduation of Jane and Jake’s son (Parrish), while the exes are both staying at the same posh New York City hotel, an evening of drinks turns into a night of dizzying sex and, before he can stop the madness, Jake finds himself back in lust with Jane, who (to bastardize a phrase) is not really convinced she wants to repurchase the cow now that she’s getting the milk for free. Also present in Jane’s life is Adam (Martin), the architect who is overseeing the planned expansion of her already perfect home. Many are the amusing and knowing moments in this comedy, yet the fabric of Meyers’ fantasy is too gossamer to sustain the weight of their truths. Still, this is an A-list cast (indeed, co-stars Baldwin and Martin have been tapped as the next Oscar hosts), who can imbue this contradictory material with just the right inflections and grace notes. Nevertheless, Streep, who is usually so impressive, seems little more than ordinary in this work, and Martin’s unique talents are sadly wasted. A Greek chorus of girlfriends (played by Rita Wilson, Mary Kay Place, Alexandra Wentworth, and Nora Dunn) appears for two dinner scenes but is never heard from otherwise. And Jane’s three grown children (Fitzgerald, Kazan, and Parrish) behave like little brats when they discover the truth about Mommy and Daddy, and as Jake’s second wife, Agness, Bell gets the thankless task of playing a nubile harpy. Meyers does get in some role reversal by permitting Streep’s flesh a tasteful degree of modesty while the chubby chest and tush of Baldwin (or a body double) are used to great comic effect. Meyers has a good feel for contemporary comedy; it’s reality, however, that slips through her grasp.

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